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A Review of Jeffrey St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon

By Ron Jacobs  Posted by Joshua Frank (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Once upon a time in America, there was a form of newspaper reporting known as muckraking. Some folks preferred to call this form of reporting “investigative reporting.” No matter.

Whatever it was called, the purpose of the reporting, the reporters, and the papers that ran the articles was to expose corruption, graft and just plain old evil in the echelons of government and big business.

Of course, there was also a hope that this exposure would end the reported abuses or, at the least, get rid of the worst abusers and most corrupt men involved.

Magazines in the first wave of muckraking included McClure’s, Colliers, and Everybody’s and some of the better known writers were Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell.

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Over the years this type of reporting has become harder to find. Many of the magazines and journals that used to run the often long articles that investigative reporting requires fell victim to the machinations of monopoly capitalism. Of course, this was fine with the capitalists, who were often the targets of the muckrakers.

Other magazines and newspapers became the victim of the news media’s shift to broadcast journalism. In the earlier days of that medium, there were many bold attempts to re-create the investigative form. Television news shows like 60 Minutes began in this mold, but now rarely present investigations that would upset the apple cart of the corporations that fund them.

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Currently, when shows that move in this direction do make it to television (PBS’s NOW comes to mind), they are attacked by the forces they threaten and either disappear or tone down their stories, thereby becoming just one more hour of pap on the television.

During the 1950s and 1960s a few magazines appeared that represented a second wave in US muckraking: Ramparts, Scanlan’s, IF Stone’s Weekly and even more mainstream journals like Playboy and Esquire ran pieces that fell within the confines of this journalistic form. Of course, perhaps the most famous investigative journalism of the past century appeared in the pages of the Washington Post and New York Times with the publication of Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandals and the Pentagon Papers, respectively.

For the magazines and newspapers that still exist from that short list, those golden days are ancient history. Except for the occasional series on city crime or local graft, these papers and magazines are mere shadows of their earlier selves.

Fortunately, there is CounterPunch. Like a select few of its counterparts on the right and the left, this paper expands the limits of journalism, running investigative reports, commentary, announcements and cultural criticism both online and in a paper version.

Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, this journal often reminds me of Ramparts in its glory days. Going well beyond other leftish magazines like The Nation, Mother Jones and The Progressive, and maintaining a stubborn independence not found in organizational journals, CounterPunch is a consistent source of reporting that goes to the heart of the matter. “Radical” in its essential definition.

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Jeffrey St. Clair’s most recent book, Grand Theft Pentagon, is a collection of muckraking exposes of the corruption and greed that help fuel Washington’s wars. Many of the pieces in the book originally appeared in CounterPunch, but their presence here in one volume brings together the full force of the theft and corruption we live with.

Although the scope of the ruling elites’ arrogance is easy enough to see, the scope of the corruption isn’t. St. Clair’s book changes that. The relentlessness of his reporting details exactly how broad and how deep the graft and outright theft of our national treasury and soul by the rich and powerful truly is. Needless to say, it’s a depressing tale.

Whether he’s detailing the fraudulent manipulations of federal contracts specified for indigenous peoples by white guys with offices in Virginia or the no-bid contracts of Halliburton and General Dynamics, St. Clair provides the reader with detail after researched detail of the grandest larceny in history. Let me remind you – there’s been some tough competition for that title.

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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)
 

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